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Nail Down Your Magazine Experience and Combat the Publishing Recession

By all means, launch many content business models and diversify your publishing portfolio. But start with your magazine experience through your magazine subscription website.

We’re in a recession. Maybe you’re feeling pretty good right now personally, but publishers are in a recession. Big time. Last year was a recession especially for newspapers, according to Pew Research Center’s “State of the News Media 2016” report. Weekday circulation dropped by 7% while Sunday circulation dropped 4%, which was the largest since 2010. Print and digital advertising both dropped, as did newsroom employment.

News magazines, on the other hand, were all over the board. Losses were less significant than newspapers, as were gains, such as the Atlantic who had the largest gain, which was a 2% boost in circulation.

In order to combat these numbers, magazines have spent 2016 coming up with new revenue streams that go beyond their print and digital publications. Vogue started a VIP membership, Southern Living opened a retail store, and Men’s Health launched a quarterly subscription box.

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Meredith is another multiplatform publisher who is seeing the fruits of their labor. They saw a 4% increase in revenue for the first fiscal quarter of 2016 with 3% growth in advertising revenue. Meredith owns 17 TV stations and chairman and CEO Stephen M. Lacy gave credit to  “strong political advertising at local TV stations and double-digit growth in digital advertising at both the national and local levels for the company’s impressive results,” according to Subscription Insider. But Meredith has been making headlines with new products too, that are connected with their magazines. TV programs, apps, an apparel line called SHAPE Active, and a line of foods called EatingWell frozen entrées are all part of their enormous and growing brand wheel.

The New York Times has also launched something called nytLive, an event content model that will roll into 2017 with new events. “Leveraging the emotionally-charged election, the New York Times planned an exclusive election night event – Election Night Live. For $250 a person, engaged readers could watch the election returns with Times’ staffers including executive editor Dean Baquet, senior editor for politics Carolyn Ryan, managing editor Joseph Kahn, editorial page editor James Bennet, and op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd, as well as U.S. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Congressman Steve Israel and the New York Times Company president and CEO Mark Thompson, among others,” describes Subscription Insider. 2017 events start at $1,115 per person.

While this is all well and good, we think one thing most publishers miss is the most basic business model of all. A really good magazine subscription website. We don’t know a lot of general interest consumer mega-magazine brands who have decent magazine subscription websites. A place to log in and update account information. Maybe, if you’re lucky. But a place where you can get access to the magazine in a magazine-like format, with access to all back issues, right from the comfort of your desk or mobile device? Lots of fails in this realm. And while we absolutely applaud the mega brands for all their effort in multiplatform publishing, we find that the little niche guys are the ones growing in circulation year over year.

And part of that is because they focused on nailing down their magazine experience first.

When it comes to mentor sites for magazine subscriptions, our Mequoda niche example is I Like Crochet, where Mequoda created for its innovative publisher and longtime client, Stuart Hochwert, what we believe is the first-ever actual website magazine. We’ve since built similar magazine websites for Metro Parent, Forester Media, Dark Intelligence Group, LMP Media Network, Countryside Network, Yankee Magazine and others. I Like Crochet magazine is available both as a web edition, complete with page-by-page navigation and a linear, magazine reading experience available on any platform or device with Internet access and as a tablet edition. If you want to know how to build a subscription-based website for your niche magazine, look no further!

An excellent mass media example is Time.com, where the venerable news magazine once upon a time tried very hard to compete with CNN in a news portal approach – soundbites, videos, tiny bits of unsatisfactory content scattered across the landscape. Back in that day, we at Mequoda thought they could do much, much better. And thankfully the frenzied CNN news approach has now given way to a streamlined website focused on the legendary magazine – long-form, detail-rich investigative content published at a magazine website.

If you want to improve your magazine user experience online, learn more about best practice magazine subscription websites. If you have more questions or need some help, set up a time to chat with us.

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